Moana Blu-ray Review
What’s It About? A fearless future chief, a crazy rooster, and an egotistical demi-god are just some of the characters you’ll find in Disney’s Moana.
Verdict: When it comes to animation, Moana is truly beautiful. There’s a lushness to the islands, and everything looks suitably inviting, at least when it’s meant to, especially the ocean, which even takes on its own playful personality throughout the film. And there are also some gorgeous sequences which have a 2-D animated, handmade, textured feel to them, which I really loved. In fact, there are loads of charmingly animated, fun scenes that I enjoyed in the film from the Kakamora attack to Mini-Maui to Tamatoa’s appearance.
As for bringing to life the movie’s lead, newcomer Auli’i Cravalho gives a fabulously spirited and engaging performance as the adventurous teen Moana, and, wow, she can REALLY carry a tune as she more than shows with her rendition of the soon-to-be-classic, How Far I’ll Go.
Dwayne Johnson has the bags of personality and presence needed to pull off the role of the super-full-of-himself, shape-shifting demi-god, Maui. Johnson is wonderfully funny, delivers his lines with great gusto, and gets one hell of a song in the very catchy You’re Welcome. And together Cravalho and Johnson make a lovely on-screen double act, sharing some nice back-and-forth as well as a few poignant moments.
As Moana’s animal sidekick, Heihei the Rooster, Alan Tudyk gets some lovely comic scenes, with a particular emphasis on slapstick. And after his roles in the likes of Big Hero 6, Frozen, and Zootopia, he’s quickly becoming Disney’s equivalent of Pixar’s good-luck-charm, John Ratzenberger. And Rachel House is a very welcome presence as Moana’s grandmother, who brings some delightful comedy as well as cheeky wisdom to the table.
Jemaine Clement may not get a lot of screen time as the colossal, blinged-up crab Tamatoa, but he makes every second count, giving a truly hilarious, scene-stealing turn that just oozes genius comic timing. Oh, and he gets a brilliant David Bowie-esque song called ‘Shiny’, which he completely smashes as well! Actually, on the character front, the only thing that I was a touch disappointed with was that there wasn’t more of Moana’s pet pig, Pua, in the film.
Story-wise, Moana hits all the beats you’d expect from this kind of quest-based plot about a young woman on a mission to save her people, but keeps things interesting and fresh thanks to its appealing characters and the way it draws on Polynesian folklore.
With veteran Disney directors Ron Clements and John Musker on board, it’s hardly surprising that Moana takes on elements of some of their best-known animations, with a good dose of The Little Mermaid and a little of Aladdin. But the directing duo and their screenwriter Jared Bush, who co-wrote and co-directed the amazing Zootopia, also add inspiration from elsewhere including Disney’s Pinocchio and even Mad Max: Fury Road!
Tried and tested as the formula for Moana’s story may be, one of the things that’s refreshing about the movie is the fact that, compared to many of Disney’s princess-based films, there’s absolutely no love interest here. So, there’s no pining after princes or true love’s kiss for Moana, just lots of adventuring on the high seas in an effort to turn around her people’s fortunes before she becomes their chief.
As far as its music’s concerned, Moana is firing on all cylinders. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, singer-songwriter Opetaia Foaʻi, who founded the award-winning group Te Vaka, and composer Mark Mancina have done a cracking job creating a soaring soundtrack infused with Polynesian spirit.
There are rousing, anthemic tunes, rhythmic lyrical melodies, jaunty humorous tracks and more, and a good many of them are decidedly ear-wormy. So, expect to be singing, whistling or humming these songs long after you’ve watched the movie! In fact, the film’s music is so strong that there’s no doubt in my mind that Moana will be next on the list of Disney movies adapted for the stage on Broadway, the West End, and all round the world.
Blu-ray Extras: There’s an absolute wealth of fantastic features on the Moana Blu-ray, including the delightful short film Inner Workings; the Maui Mini-Movie “Gone Fishing”; an in-depth look at Pacific Island culture and its influence on the film in Voice of the Islands; Things You Didn’t Know About the stars and composers of Moana; creating Island Fashion; Making the Music of Moana; a deep-dive into the film’s Easter Eggs; four mini-docs about the amazing technical achievements and ground-breaking effects in the film; a variety of fun Deleted Scenes and Song; How Far I’ll Go music video; and Audio Commentary with the directors.
Final Words: Moana is awash with gorgeous animation, pitch-perfect voice performances, and a superb soundtrack that you’ll want to listen to over and over again. Expect a thoroughly entertaining movie that has frequently funny moments, a refreshingly interesting cultural setting, and will likely leave a big smile on your face.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Epic Comedy-Adventure, Moana, Sails Home on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray on 3rd April 2017, and is available on Digital Download now.